Seeking Sanctuary

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

He would withdraw into the wilds for prayer.

Luke 5:16

Seeker,
How can we be sanctuary when life is under threat?

In an age considered Dark,
in a world lit by fire,
fugitives could find refuge beneath a temple spire.

Claiming protection,
begging intercessions rare,
“Sanctuary!” threatened voices might declare.

But where now to turn,
whose mercy to seek,
to safeguard a planet, to shield the weak,

when on that very altar
this living earth entire
wantonly is sacrificed to idols of desire?

As a person who aspires to live nonviolently —
knowing I will forever fall short —
I know I need sanctuary
if I want to loosen the grip
of our culture’s violence on me.

Parker Palmer

Decades ago,
at the end of my Amazonian sojourn,
I was urged to return to my “far away home”

by forest people
who introduced me to their leafy land,
renamed and reclaimed me.

Sent back to my ancestral shores
with heart rinsed clear,
I was inspired by an indigenous vision

of how we too might
listen and learn to fall in love again
with the sanctus sanctorum of the wilds.

Gifts of mind, hands, heart, voice, and vision
all offered up on behalf of the earth.
Whatever our gift, we are called to give it
And to dance for the renewal of the world.
In return for the privilege of breath.

Robin Wall Kimmerer

What if cosmic wilderness itself
were one vast temple,
and jewel bright earth an exquisite sanctuary?

Imagine how such epiphanies might
reshape roles and responsibilities,
reframe cultures, reclaim rites and liturgies?

For the wild wisdom of love universal
teaches that whatsoever we do unto any
we surely do unto Thee, Source of all this is.

The moment we realize that we are all related, this planet becomes our home.
The birds flying in the sky are our kith and kin.
The deer and the rabbits in the forest are our brothers and sisters;
even tigers and elephants, snakes and earthworms are members of one Earth family.
The moment we have that sense of gratitude, we have a sense of reverential ecology.

Satish Kumar

May you heed the ceaseless choirs
that soak summer air with songs of praise
under an indigo sky.

May you join the chorus
clamoring for life, calling out for shelter,
a sacred haven in the heavens.

And may you offer
some form of sanctuary
to weary souls hungry for home.

In the end,
wildness waits us out
returning to reclaim ruination
and reweave with dripping vine
a softer sanctuary
that leads every kind of soul
to rest and restoration sublime.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

joe

Available here

Scratchings by Joe Grant provides a fascinating journey showing the extraordinary wisdom and beauty found in the most ordinary of events. While appreciating events such as the beauty of a leaf falling and the often-unnoticed activities in the backyard of his inner city neighborhood, the journey also takes us far and wide from his childhood in Scotland, to his mission experience in the Amazon rainforest, and even to the site of genocidal massacre in Rwanda. Each episode draws the reader in with exquisite language and creates a picture that engages the imagination. The word play, rhyming, cadence and alliteration are delightful and evocative.

In a powerful section of his book called Epiphany, Joe reflects on the in-breaking moments of graced awareness:

To the awakened,
every sunrise is a first
brilliant blush of brand-new creation
each frigid breath suspended,
a sacramental exhalation
in conspiration of
spirit holy.

He goes on to write, “sometimes a singular ray pierces perception to jolt us into wakefulness with a radiant revelation that all ground is hallowed.”

This beautiful book is for me a meditation on our amazing yet troubled world. Joe’s book helps me to see the sacred mysteries which are all around us.

  • The Rev. Karl Ruttan, Ph.D., Episcopal priest and spiritual director

Enchanted

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

Blessed the eyes that see what you see!
Luke 10:23

Seeker,
How are you startled, surprised, stunned by the wonder of being?

As a wee lad,
growing up in Scotland,
I wanted to believe in “faerie folk,”

convinced that lonely places would reveal
mischievous manifestations of nature:
a flash of color, a mournful song, a flittering light.

Rambling the outskirts, I ran into a rusty fox,
cradled a stickily hedgehog ball, caught an orange bellied newt,
studied speckled trout, squinted at hovering kestrels.

While chasing tiny flying dragons and damsels,
I heard a moaning in the wind,
and sensed a sigh in mist that makes everything mystical.

Though a working-class boy
in a post-industrial town,
I fell under the spell of wildness.

holding you here
leading you there
the song of a blackbird
the prints of deer

Thomas A. Clark

Charmed by nature’s muse,
transported to land beyond boredom
or detached observation,

choosing enchantment rekindles childlike curiosity,
sets the mind a-wandering,
lets imagination entertain other dimensions of being.

Disenchantment, first blush of cynicism,
denies the disturbing delights
of surprise, wonder, and humbling awe.

Even miserable moments
are lightened by lark-song
and tormented souls find solace in the wilds.

Are we not born breathless,
out-of-our-depth visionaries
made for mysticism
wrought for reverence?

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Indigenous imagination
evokes enchanted engagement
with a world still mysterious and magical.

Allured by natural beauty,
fascinated by resilience,
spirits echo the ancient song of gratefulness:

We have arrived
at the bright gate
of a gifted day

through strength of sun,
softness of air,
swiftness of water, stability of soil,

firmness of rock, shelter of shade,
chorus of creature kin,
and warm embrace of friendship.

Holy before, sacred above,
Spirit within,
homeland beneath, inside, all around.

It is good to be here,
with all of Thee
in the fullness of now.

Amid beauty and blight,
here are we remembered,
brought back where we belong,

Sacred is all, including us,
single, sacramental tapestry
saturated in soil, singing in trees.

Now at last are we home,
dearer and nearer
to every green and growing thing.

Falling in love with land
is but a first step on the
path to reclamation.

May enchantment expose you
to the magnanimity of nature,
with an expansive sense of soul.

For ours is the story of the land,
ours the song of the sea,
ours the saga of the sky.

joe

Available here

Scratchings invites one to explore a world of meaning delving deep beyond the surface to something truly human, truly spirit, truly personal. Challenged to ask the hard, difficult questions, the ones that come when you are deep in silence, or tending a garden, I found that Scratchings takes you on a path not necessarily where you will find the answers but to a profound engagement in the on-going and evolving search for truth. Your own. Touching a yesterday that opens gently into a tomorrow. A safe place to remember. A wonderful place to Dream.

  • Sr. Sue Scharfenberger, osu, Lima, Peru.

Celtic Canticle

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

Seeing westerly clouds gather you declare, “Rain is coming”; and it does.
And as southern winds arise you say, “It will be hot”; and so it is
.

Luke 12:54-55


Seeker,
Where do you see possibilities for peace in lives possessed by violence?

Tilting toward solstice,
reading gathering clouds
that announce a warming season,

let us lean into the light,
away from death-dealing destruction
that soaks soil red,

and heed instead
urgent pleading from earth’s children
to root our lives in reverence.

May this ageless blessing song
lead us back around
to love’s own holy home ground.

Deep peace of quiet earth.
Blue-green mother of pearl, planet home,
your blessed bedrock, stony summits, rolling hills,
tilly fields, forests, and wetland moors,
deserts and dusty plains,
hold every growing thing.

The earth is our origin and destination.

John O’Donohue

Deep peace of running wave.
Blessed ever-flowing streams, wellsprings, falls,
pools and ponds, rolling rivers, limpid lakes,
churning surf and salty swirling seas,
all you holy waters that rise and rain down again,
sustaining bodies, refreshing spirits.

It is a curious situation that the sea,
from which life first arose
should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life.

Rachel Carson

Deep peace of flowing air.
Blessed ceaseless wind,
breezes soft and stirring,
gusting fresh and howling furious
that blow through every breathy being.

Praised be thee,
through Brother Wind,
air, cloudy and serene, and every form of weather.

Francis of Assisi

Deep peace of creature kin.
Blessed earthlings all, who climb and creep,
gallop, fly, slink, and swim.
And blessed every family of people
who upright wander, worry and wonder
at the tragic beauty of life’s tapestry.

Compassion can be lost as easily as species,
and when it goes, then plants and animals are sure to follow.

Charlie Elder

Deep peace of dark and day.
Blessed burning light-bringer,
our ever-glowing giver.
And blessed waxing-waning moon,
constant companion,
wave ruler, weaver of dreams and nightly lantern.

I will love the light for it shows me the way,
yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.

Og Mandino

Deep peace of shining stars.
Blessed diamond constellations,
pilgrim planets, scintillating galaxies, billowing nebulae,
a wondrous window to infinity that decorates timeless dark.

Let the waters settle and you will see
the moon and the stars mirrored in your being
.

Rumi

Deep peace of the font of life.
Sacred Source of chaotic creativity,
infusing compassion into every spiraled helix,
whose blessed boundless presence,
with benevolence universal,
bestows upon troubled times enduring peace.

For lack of attention a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day.

Evelyn Underhill

In our language
one day we have named for the moon,
another for Saturn,

and the sacred day of rest
we dedicate
to our daystar.

What if we turned every Sun-day
into Earth-day,
and gave our holy home a weekly sabbath?

The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy,
and after all, our most pleasing responsibility.
To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.

Wendell Berry

joe

Available here

Joe Grant is a seer and a sayer, a prophet and a poet. He divines the divine in the everyday stuff of life and speaks the essential truth that every place can be a thin place, every time Kairos time. Scratchings is Joe at his alliterative best, offering us a beautiful sacramental vision in which Spirit weaves us into a great, timeless community with each other and with the more-than-human world. This quiet, gentle, but powerful book is absolutely necessary medicine for our troubled times.

  • Kyle Kramer, Executive Director of the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center

Neighboring

Images and text by Joe Grant © 2022

And who is my neighbor?

Luke 10:29

Seeker,
How well do you know your neighbors, in countless form and living expression?

Saunter round your garden.
Loiter in the alley.
Stroll the street to the nearest strip of green.

As you go, practice the art of noticing,
attentive to sights, scents, sounds
that appeal to hungry senses.

Stop often, stoop low, regularly raise the gaze
and take in an all-round invitation to converse
with growing, crawling, chirping, scurrying neighbors.

In contemplative communion
unleash the personal sacralizing power
we could call “neighboring.”

By the name we have given ourselves, we are
of humus made, earthling keepers of a neighborhood
garden. Everywhere we care to look, around this
life-making planet, we uncover bonds and name
connections to neighbor in immeasurable emanation.

With Creation as cloister, neighbor-keeping
defines identity and calling, a pathway to ever deeper
identification and broader association with life-
shaping entanglements.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

Making subjects of objects,
getting to know our natural neighbors,
was how our ancestral family learned to thrive.

Now it seems, restoring reverence
for neighborhood balance
may be the way we relearn how to survive.

Given the depth of alienation,
and deadly repercussions
of social dislocation and spiritual misdirection,

could anything be more urgent
for the reclamation of humankind-ness
than a fulsome embrace of neighborhood, every part of it?

For how can we claim to love
what we care not
to notice, name, and know?

Our life is all grounded and rooted in love, and without love we may not live.

Julian of Norwich

And what kind of neighbor fails to meet,
greet and daily respond to interactions
with nearest next of kin?

How well do you know the shrubs and trees
that give voice to breeze
or dense green tangles that decorate ground?

Do you marvel at swirling insect swarms
animated by sunlight slices,
or meditate on miraculous web-weavers?

Are you versed in bird psalms,
and fluent in the silent language of flowers
that sets the neighborhood abuzz?

A flower is made up of many non-flower elements,
such as clouds, soil, and sunshine.
Without clouds and earth there could be no flower.
This is interbeing. The one is the result of the all.
What makes the all possible is the one.

Thich Nhat Hahn

For terminology illustrates value
and defines the quality of our relationship
to the living tapestry,

in our depth of endearment
as well as our
illusions of separation and supremacy.

“Scenery” and “environment”
cast natural life as a backdrop,
stage and setting for work or play.

But costly (neighbor) love is no sentimental excursion,
and authentic mysticism no transcendental escape.
Both require a plunge into the messy matter of reality.

Lead us from the unreal into the real …

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28

Be-wilderment becomes a prerequisite for wisdom
and wilderness remains our sanctuary
for soulful realignment.

It is our essential human nature
to seek connection,
to be neighborly.

Since silence
is the language of prayer
and listening the language of love,

quiet, attentive neighboring
may even reveal
our road to redemption.

All who in roomy Spirithood reside
regularly are restored
by a loving overflow
beyond retention
or restraint,
pressed
down,
shaken up,
and
freely
outpoured.

Joe Grant, Scratchings

joe

Available here

Scratchings is so much more than a collection of poetry and reflective verse. It is eye-opener, mindfulness-maker, veil-lifter, kinship-keeper. It is a portal into the sacred arising through the ordinary, an entryway into the soul-full-ness of every single thing. Joe’s in-sight and perception not only show us, they teach us: scratch the surface of any single thing and, indeed, you’ll find it lit from within; only “pay dues of attention” to any experience and you’ll find burning bushes at every turn. If you’re wanting a quick read, opt for a different book; if you want to linger with life and swim out into mystery, let Scratchings be your companion.

  • JoAnn Gates, Director of Knobs Haven Retreat Center, Loretto, Kentucky